A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Disclaimer: I’m horrible at reviewing books I love and definitely won’t be doing this one justice, so…just read it already?
Anyway. Since it’s a given that I won’t be able to form coherent thoughts about this one (especially since I’m fresh off reading it), I’ll just list the million and one reasons why I loved it. Okay? Okay.
💙 Headstrong, snarky and smart, Zayneb was a fearless and outspoken character who sometimes came across as too brave and and…bitter. But her heart was in the right place, and her anger and jaded view of the world were very much justified given the prejudice, racism and Islamophobia she had to deal with. I loved seeing her grow as a character and learn that compromising with herself wasn’t necessary as long as she was doing what her heart felt was right, despite the characters.
🧡 As much as I loved Zayneb, however, Adam was hands down my most favorite character in the book. He was such a soft, fluffy hooman and needs to be protected at all costs, okay? My heart positively BROKE at times because of everything he had to go through, throughout all which he was always so strong and level-headed. So in touch with his emotions and such a mama’s boy- and I mean it in the bestest way possible. And how he cared for his sister? My heart.
💙 The halal romance. Zayneb and Adam couldn’t have been more different, but they complemented each other and were willing to work through whatever fate threw their way and it was just. So. Beautiful. They had their ups and downs, sure, but they always came out stronger despite it all…even if they did take their own sweet time with it sometimes. I loved that they kept their romance halal- meaning, they abided by limits set on us Muslims by religion etc. which was actually super refreshing to read about in a time where media and pop culture love hyping up “progressive” takes on religion and relationship which sometimes (mostly) end up painting being religious regressive. No, thank you.
🧡 I loved the format in which the story was narrated- excerpts from both Zayneb’s and Adam’s journals, with interruptions from the author when deemed necessary as well. The idea behind their journals was unique and so made me want to start recording Marvels and Oddities of own too- something which I might actually start doing soon! The writing itself was engrossing and kept me glued to the pages right from the first one. It’s no secret that I love S. K. Ali’s knack for making her writing incredibly personal and yet so relatable, and this book only made me love her more.
💙 The relationships. All of them. Be it between Adam and his little sister, Zayneb and her aunt or even both Adam and Zayneb, and their friends, each relationship was crafted well and I found myself being invested in all of them. Especially that of Adam and his mother. Trust me when I say a scene or two would melt even the hardest of hearts. Spoiler, but not exactly: watch out for the french fries lesson.
I’ve tried my best to limit my thoughts to these five points, but I could honestly go on and on about everything I loved about this beauty of a book. The fact that it’s #ownvoices and has some excellent commentary on current issues? Yup. That it’s set for the most part in Qatar and gives some great insight about life there? YES, I honestly, honestly can’t find anything major to complain about here. Sure, that epilogue wasn’t entirely necessary, but I still loved seeing how things would look for Adam and Zayneb down the lane, and I know I’d have wished for more had we not gotten the epilogue, so, like I said before, this one was pretty darn perfect.
If you’ve been paying attention to me at all over the past year or so, you’d know how much I loved the author’s previous book, Saints and Misfits. Well, would you believe it if I said I love this one even more? I do. Give S. K. Ali and her books the love they deserve, y’all! I promise you won’t regret it…unless you have something against amazing books. I mean. You know. *shrugs*
Have you read any of the author’s books before? If yes, which of them is your favorite, and if no, why ever not?! Let’s talk all about it in the comments below! xx